Dean's Clutch Free Throws Complete Men's Basketball Comeback

Saturday, January 7, 2012 - page 2

In the 1950s, James Dean was the epitome of cool in American culture. For the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team, freshman AJ Dean proved to be just as cool under pressure at McDaniel.

Dean drained a pair of free throws with 3.2 seconds to play, giving the Mules a 71-70 come-from-behind win in their first game of 2012. The victory moves Muhlenberg to 9-2 for the first time since the 1947-48 season.

Gabriel Mercer and Malique Killing
Freshman Gabriel Mercer grabbed the steal on this play and dished it to Killing for a layup to make it a four-point game with 1:27 to play.

“I wasn’t really nervous at all,” Dean said. “My teammates were keeping me relaxed, especially when they called the timeout between the shots. But I never thought about missing them; I was confident the whole time. I have hit some foul shot to win games before, but nothing as memorable as this.”

Dean’s heroics helped the Mules overcome a nine-point halftime deficit, their largest comeback since 2007. But they may not have been possible if not for a head’s up play by senior Matt O’Hara.

With the Mules (9-2, 3-2) down four with less than 30 seconds remaining, O’Hara grabbed consecutive offensive rebounds, the second of which he touched passed to freshman Malique Killing in the corner for a 3-pointer that made it a one-point game with 30 seconds to play.

McDaniel (4-8, 1-4) missed the front end of a one-and-one on its next possession, and senior Spencer Liddic pulled down his 11th rebound of the game, which led to Dean’s free throws.

“Matt is one of the smartest players I’ve ever met,” Dean said. “He’s always making the right play, and that was just one more example. That was such a huge play, and it’s what Matt brings every game.”

Kevin Hargrove
Sophomore Kevin Hargrove blocked three shots and tied his career high with two assists.

While the finish was great for the Mules, the start could not have been any different. McDaniel rode some hot outside shooting (7-of-12 from three) to take a 40-31 advantage at the break.

The Mules chipped into the deficit in the early stages of the second half, but the Green Terror responded and led by at least two possessions through much of the frame.

But a foul line jumper that pushed the lead to eight with 1:58 to play would prove to be the Green Terror’s final field goal as the Mules closed the game on a 10-1 run to grab the win.

Liddic got the streak started with a jumper from the elbow at the 1:39 mark. He finished with a game-high 25 points to go along with his 11 rebounds for his 36th career double-double. He moved into seventh place on the school’s career scoring list with 1,438 points.

The Mules turned up the pressure and got two steals, leading to their next three points. A McDaniel made free throw with 43 seconds left set the stage for the final flurry.

The Mules committed a season-low eight turnovers and forced 19 on the other end, including four steals from sophomore Austin Curry.

Killing hit nine of Muhlenberg’s 22 free throws to finish with 20 points, and Dean added nine. Of course, he said none of those were any bigger than the final two.

“This was a huge win for us, especially coming off the break,” Dean said. “You could tell this was our first game in a couple weeks; we were a little off at the start. But we shook off the rust and got the job done when we needed to.”
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